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EDGARDO AREOLA,
- versus -
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FIRST DIVISION
Complainant,
A.C. No. 10135
Present:
SERENO, CJ.,
Chairperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
REYES,JJ.
Promulgated:
ATTY. MARIA VILMA MENDOZA, JAN
1
S
2014
Respondent.

RESOLUTION
REYES,J.:
This refers to the administrative complaint
1
filed by Edgardo D.
Areola (Areola) a.k.a. Muhammad Khadafy against Atty. Maria Vilma
Mendoza (Atty. Mendoza), from the Public Attorney's Office (PAO) for
violation of her attorney's oath of office, deceit, malpractice or other gross
misconduct in office under Section 27, Rule 13 8 of the Revised Rules of
Court, and for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In the letter-complaint dated November 13, 2006 addressed to the
Honorable Commissioners, Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated
Bar of the Philippines (IBP), Areola stated that he was filing the complaint
in behalf of his co-detainees Allan Seronda, Aaron Arca, Joselito Mirador,
Spouses Danilo Perez and Elizabeth Perez. He alleged that on October 23,
2006, during Prisoners' Week, Atty. Mendoza, visited the Antipolo City Jail
and called all detainees with pending cases before the Regional Trial Court
Rollo, pp. 2-10.
Resolution 2 A.C. No. 10135



(RTC), Branch 73, Antipolo City where she was assigned, to attend her
speech/lecture.
2
Areola claimed that Atty. Mendoza stated the following
during her speech:

O kayong may mga kasong drugs na may pangpiyansa o pang-
areglo ay maging praktikal sana kayo kung gusto ninyong makalaya
agad. Upang makatiyak kayo na hindi masasayang ang pera ninyo ay
sa akin ninyo ibigay o ng kamag-anak ninyo ang pera at ako na ang
bahalang maglagay kay Judge Martin at Fiscal banqui; at kayong mga
detenidong mga babae na no bail ang kaso sa drugs, iyak-iyakan lang
ninyo si Judge Martin at palalayain na kayo. Malambot ang puso
noon.
3


Atty. Mendoza allegedly said that as she is handling more than 100
cases, all detainees should prepare and furnish her with their Sinumpaang
Salaysay so that she may know the facts of their cases and their defenses and
also to give her the necessary payment for their transcript of stenographic
notes.
4


Areola furthermore stated that when he helped his co-inmates in
drafting their pleadings and filing motions before the RTC Branch 73,
Antipolo City, Atty. Mendoza undermined his capability, to wit:

(1) Atty. Mendoza purportedly scolded detainee Seronda when she
learned that the latter was assisted by Areola in filing a Motion to Dismiss
for Violation of Republic Act No. 8942 (Speedy Trial Act of 1998) in the
latters criminal case for rape, which was pending before the RTC, Branch
73, Antipolo City. She got angrier when Seronda retorted that he allowed
Areola to file the motion for him since there was nobody to help him.

(2) Areola assisted Spouses Danilo and Elizabeth Perez in filing their
J oint Motion for Consolidation of Trial of Consolidated Offenses and J oint
Motion to Plead Guilty to a Lesser Offense. The spouses were likewise
scolded for relying on the Complainant and alleged that the respondent
asked for P2,000.00 to represent them.

(3) Areola helped another co-detainee, Mirador in filing an Ex-parte
Motion to Plead Guilty to a Lesser Offense. When Atty. Mendoza learned
of it, she allegedly scolded Mirador and discredited Areola.
5


2
Id. at 3.
3
Id. at 4.
4
Id.
5
Id. at 5-9.

Resolution 3 A.C. No. 10135



In her unverified Answer
6
dated J anuary 5, 2007, Atty. Mendoza
asseverated that the filing of the administrative complaint against her is a
harassment tactic by Areola as the latter had also filed several administrative
cases against judges in the courts of Antipolo City including the jail warden
of Taytay, Rizal where Areola was previously detained. These actuations
show that Areola has a penchant for filing various charges against anybody
who does not accede to his demand.
7
Atty. Mendoza contended that Areola
is not a lawyer but represented himself to his co-detainees as one.
8
She
alleged that the motions/pleadings prepared and/or filed by Areola were not
proper.

After both parties failed to appear in the Mandatory Conference set by
the IBP on August 15, 2008, the Investigating Commissioner considered the
non-appearance as a waiver on their part. Nonetheless, in the interest of
justice, both parties were required to submit their respective position
papers.
9


On December 29, 2009, the Investigating Commissioner issued his
Report and Recommendation.
10
The Investigating Commissioner stated that
the Complainant is knowledgeable in the field of law. While he may be of
service to his fellow detainees, he must, however, be subservient to the skills
and knowledge of a full fledged lawyer. He however found no convincing
evidence to prove that Atty. Mendoza received money from Areolas co-
detainees as alleged. The charges against Atty. Mendoza were also
uncorroborated, viz:

There is no convincing evidence that will prove that the respondent
received money from the inmates since the charges are uncorroborated. In
fact, the complainant is not the proper party to file the instant case since he
was not directly affected or injured by the act/s being complained of. No
single affidavits of the affected persons were attached to prove the said
charges. Hence, it is simply hearsay in nature.
11


Nonetheless, Atty. Mendoza admitted in her Answer that she advised
her clients and their relatives to approach the judge and the fiscal to beg
and cry so that their motions would be granted and their cases against them
would be dismissed. To the Investigating Commissioner, this is highly
unethical and improper as the act of Atty. Mendoza degrades the image of
and lessens the confidence of the public in the judiciary.
12
The Investigating
6
Id. at 33-39.
7
Id. at 33.
8
Id. at 35.
9
Id. at 145.
10
Id. at 141-150.
11
Id. at 148.
12
Id. at 149.

Resolution 4 A.C. No. 10135



Commissioner recommended that Atty. Mendoza be suspended from the
practice of law for a period of two (2) months.
13


In a Notice of Resolution
14
dated November 19, 2011, the Board of
Governors resolved to adopt and approve the Report and Recommendation
of the Investigating Commissioner.

Atty. Mendoza sought to reconsider the Resolution
15
dated November
19, 2011 but the IBP Board of Governors denied her motion in its
Resolution
16
dated May 10, 2013. The Resolution of the IBP Board of
Governors was transmitted to the Court for final action pursuant to Rule
139-B, Section 12, Paragraph b
17
of the Revised Rules of Court.

The Courts Ruling

After a judicious examination of the records, the Court finds that the
instant Complaint against Atty. Mendoza profoundly lacks evidence to
support the allegations contained therein. All Areola has are empty
assertions against Atty. Mendoza that she demanded money from his co-
detainees.

The Court agrees with the IBP that Areola is not the proper party to
file the Complaint against Atty. Mendoza. He is not even a client of Atty.
Mendoza. He claims that he filed the Complaint on behalf of his co-
detainees Seronda, Arca, Mirador and Spouses Perez, but it is apparent that
no document was submitted which would show that they authorized Areola
to file a Complaint. They did not sign the Complaint he prepared. No
affidavit was even executed by the said co-detainees to substantiate the
matters Areola raised. Consequently, the Court rejects Areolas statements,
especially as regards Atty. Mendozas alleged demands of money.

The Court agrees with the observations of the Investigating
Commissioner that Areola initiated this complaint when he felt insulted
because Atty. Mendoza refused to acknowledge the pleadings and motions
he prepared for his co-detainees who are PAO clients of Atty. Mendoza.
18
It
13
Id. at 150.
14
Id. at 140.
15
Id. at 158-160.
16
Id. at 165.
17
Rule 139-B, Section 12. Review and decision by the Board of Governors. -
x x x x
b) If the Board, by the vote of a majority of its total membership, determines that the respondent
should be suspended from the practice of law or disbarred, it shall issue a resolution setting forth its
findings and recommendations which, together with the whole record of the case, shall forthwith be
transmitted to the Supreme Court for final action.
x x x x
18
Rollo, p. 147.

Resolution 5 A.C. No. 10135



appears that Areola is quite knowledgeable with Philippine laws. However,
no matter how good he thinks he is, he is still not a lawyer. He is not
authorized to give legal advice and file pleadings by himself before the
courts. His familiarity with Philippine laws should be put to good use by
cooperating with the PAO instead of filing baseless complaints against
lawyers and other government authorities. It seems to the Court that Areola
thinks of himself as more intelligent and better than Atty. Mendoza, based
on his criticisms against her. In his Reply
19
, he made fun of her grammatical
errors and tagged her as using carabao english
20
. He also called the PAO as
Pa-Amin Office
21
which seriously undermines the reputation of the PAO.
While Areola may have been frustrated with the way the PAO is managing
the significant number of cases it deals with, all the more should he exert
efforts to utilize his knowledge to work with the PAO instead of maligning
it.

Interestingly, Atty. Mendoza admitted that she advised her clients to
approach the judge and plead for compassion so that their motions would be
granted. This admission corresponds to one of Areolas charges against
Atty. Mendozathat she told her clients Iyak-iyakan lang ninyo si Judge
Martin at palalayain na kayo. Malambot ang puso noon. Atty. Mendoza
made it appear that the judge is easily moved if a party resorts to dramatic
antics such as begging and crying in order for their cases to be dismissed.

As such, the Court agrees with the IBP Board of Governors that Atty.
Mendoza made irresponsible advices to her clients in violation of Rule 1.02
and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It is the mandate
of Rule 1.02 that a lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at
defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system. Rule
15.07 states that a lawyer shall impress upon his client compliance with the
laws and the principles of fairness.

Atty. Mendozas improper advice only lessens the confidence of the
public in our legal system. J udges must be free to judge, without pressure or
influence from external forces or factors
22
according to the merits of a case.
Atty. Mendozas careless remark is uncalled for.

It must be remembered that a lawyers duty is not to his client but to
the administration of justice. To that end, his clients success is wholly
subordinate. His conduct ought to and must always be scrupulously
observant of the law and ethics. Any means, not honorable, fair and honest
19
Id. at 48-57.
20
Id. at 55.
21
Id. at 4.
22
Ala v. Judge Peras, A.M. No. RTJ -11-2283, November 16, 2011, 660 SCRA 193, 214.

Resolution 6 A.C. No. 10135



which is resorted to by the lawyer, even in the pursuit of his devotion to his
clients cause, is condemnable and unethical.
23


In spite of the foregoing, the Court deems the penalty of suspension
for two (2) months as excessive and not commensurate to Atty. Mendozas
infraction. Disbarment and suspension of a lawyer, being the most severe
forms of disciplinary sanction, should be imposed with great caution and
only in those cases where the misconduct of the lawyer as an officer of the
court and a member of the bar is established by clear, convincing and
satisfactory proof.
24
The Court notes that when Atty. Mendoza made the
remark Iyak-iyakan lang ninyo si Judge Martin at palalayain na kayo.
Malambot ang puso noon, she was not compelled by bad faith or malice.
While her remark was inappropriate and unbecoming, her comment is not
disparaging and reproachful so as to cause dishonor and disgrace to the
J udiciary.

In several administrative cases, the Court has refrained from imposing
the actual penalties in the presence of mitigating factors. Factors such as the
respondents length of service, the respondents acknowledgement of his or
her infractions and feeling of remorse, family circumstances, humanitarian
and equitable considerations, respondents advanced age, among other
things, have had varying significance in the Courts determination of the
imposable penalty.
25
The Court takes note of Atty. Mendozas lack of ill-
motive in the present case and her being a PAO lawyer as her main source of
livelihood.
26
Furthermore, the complaint filed by Areola is clearly baseless
and the only reason why this was ever given consideration was due to Atty.
Mendozas own admission. For these reasons, the Court deems it just to
modify and reduce the penalty recommended by the IBP Board of
Governors.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Court finds Atty. Maria
Vilma Mendoza GUILTY of giving improper advice to her clients in
violation of Rule 1.02 and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional
Responsibility and is accordingly meted out the penalty of REPRIMAND,
with the STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act will
be dealt with more severely.





23
Rural Bank of Calape, Inc. (RBCI) Bohol v. Florido, A.C. No. 5736, June 18, 2010, 621 SCRA
182, 187.
24
Buado v. Layag, 479 Phil. 808, 817 (2004); Berbano v. Atty. Barcelona, 457 Phil. 331, 341 (2004).
25
Rayos v. Atty. Hernandez, 544 Phil. 447, 463 (2007).
26
Rollo, p. 159.

Resolution 7 A.C. No. 10135
SO ORDERED.
BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice
WE CONCUR:
MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Chief Justice
Chairperson
~ ~ ~ ~
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
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